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The University of Southampton

BIOL2045 Vertebrate Development

Module Overview

This module provides the second year student with the basic concepts of human and other vertebrate animal development. Students will come to understand the main mechanisms behind both animal development and organised cellular differentiation and how these processes are studied. They will also become aware of how various changes in developmental pathways can play a role in human and animal health

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe gametogenesis and fertilization, and explain the molecular mechanisms of germ cell specification and sex determination
  • Explain and contrast the major processes of mammalian development from fertilisation to foetal organogenesis across vertebrates
  • Explain the molecular and cellular mechanisms of gastrulation, neurulation and limb formation
  • Understand the role stem cells play in development, and evaluate the main advantages and limitations of the different types of stem cells for medical research
  • Explain how master control genes coordinate the formation of the body plan during development
  • Explain the role of differential gene expression, genomic imprinting and other epigenetic controls in development
  • Analyse vertebrate development using microscopic techniques


The module has 22 lectures of 45 minutes over eleven weeks, with the first ones addressing general concepts of development, followed with those addressing specific topics. The lectures incorporate specific learning outcomes with a progression of topics from molecular and cellular aspects of development to neural tube formation, through gastrulation. The module has a final revision session of 2 hours. The teaching content is research-led, building on the most up-to-date research findings in the field. Students will have access to a list of selected literature for further reading around each topic. The lectures are complemented with two lab-based practical sessions, which allow students to construct on their theoretical knowledge and develop critical thinking and analysis abilities based on microscopic observations of gametogenesis and live embryos developing at various stages. Lecture Contents 1/ Introduction to the main concepts in development at a cellular and organism level 2/ Gametogenesis and Fertilisation 3/ Early development from cleavage to implantation- contraception 4/ Vertebrate gastrulation 5/ Extra-embryonic development- placenta, yolk sac and germ cells 6/ Epigenetic control of development 7/ Body plans and Segmentation 8/ Neural Development 9/ Limb development 10/ Stem cells 11/ Model organisms Practical Contents: Two practical sessions will incorporate microscopic observations of gametogenesis and live embryos developing at various stages.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures Practical sessions

Independent Study117
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessed Practicals 25%
Midterm Quiz 10%
Written exam 65%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

BIOL1005 or BIOL1011 preferred. CHEM1039, CHEM1012 or A-Level Chemistry preferred.

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